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Speak Up

It is always hard to see those you care about suffer. We sometimes make mistakes that lead us down a path to a place we couldn’t have imagined before. Our intentions may have started out in the right place but we suddenly find ourselves in a mess of our own creation. Many of us have witnessed loved ones wander down a road driven by poor choice upon poor choice. Despite the best efforts and wisdom of others, arrogance and pride keep us on this path for extended periods of time. At the time, we can easily deceive ourselves into believing what we are doing will have a desired outcome. We rely too heavily on the freedoms that we have been given and fail to seek discipline in our living. Quite simply, we fall into sin. But we do not have to stay in sin. We believe in the God of redemption. The Lord who saves. And with the help of other brothers and sisters we can live with God beyond the poor choices we make.

When my wife and I first came to know Christ it was a time of many questions. Our relationship with the Lord quickly developed into a very disciplined, verging on legalistic, encounter. Our lives tended to center around what we shouldn’t be doing and what we should stay away from. While this was a time of wonderful spiritual growth as we learned more about God’s grace, I do wonder how common this type of story is with new Christians.

Over the years as our relationship grew fuller and deeper with God we found the freedom to revisit aspects of our lives that at the beginning of our relationship with Christ, we had walked away from. God had strengthened us in unimaginable ways. Friendships that had become hostile or forgotten were  rekindled full of grace. Hobbies and activities that had lost any value were enjoyable once more. We were able to experience the freedom given only by Christ. But, there have been many times since then that when we were not careful, we abused the freedom God has shown us by lacking in discipline. This is where the Corinthian church found itself at the time of Paul’s first letter.

The Corinthian church suffered from sin from within because of a misunderstanding of the freedom given by God. They possibly believed that they were free of moral constraints because of God’s grace. Paul chastises them because of their seemingly willingness to accept the sins of those within the church that even outsiders would look down upon. Paul calls them to discipline because God has set boundaries to protect them, to set them apart.

This is where we can find things in our own dealings with sin. It can be easy to fall into the thinking that the grace and freedom God has provided us allows all things. We may walk right up to the line of what we know is sin, lingering in that space for a time, but do we have the discipline in our lives to lead us back. Is our foundation firmly planted on God and his protection? While it is sometimes hard to notice when we are taking liberties with the freedom in our lives, it can be easy to overlook when our brothers and sisters are taking liberties too. Most relationships have some level of messiness in them, but do we truly care enough about each other to call each other out from time to time. It is so much easier to ignore the problems and missteps of others, as well as those of ourselves, and simply keep trudging along. But that is not what God has called us to. We are to hold each other accountable in our relationship with God and his church.

God has set us apart as his church. He has given us wonderful freedom, but he also has called us to discipline. Should we fall into sin, I pray that we would love one another enough to speak up.

Posted by Chris Taylor with 0 Comments

Starting with a Gray Smudge

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Somewhere in my little girl, growing up years, I began to believe my Baptist church was “doing it right. I placed a high value on being “right,” in my faith, overlooking and often ignoring Jesus’s plea for righteousness through him.

And so that little girl mind of mine grew up with some pretty self-righteous thoughts about what the church should believe and do. And I was going along just fine, until I fell in love with a boy whose family was Methodist on one side and Catholic on the other. I wasn’t worried, the Methodists were ok. They had a fabulous midnight Christmas Eve service.

Anyway, I married that boy, and two years later sat in a hospital with his grandma. She didn’t always know why her Catholic faith did what it did, but she followed through with it.  And so, in my early twenties, sitting with grandma while her husband had surgery on an Ash Wednesday, I was cocky and pressed into the moment, all too smug to walk away with the answer I got – she didn’t know what the gray smudge on her forehead meant.

It only confirmed what I had thought about this faith that seemed to hold Jesus at far too far a distance. And wasn’t I doing much the same? I didn’t have answers for why I did nothing to prepare myself for the remembrance of my Christ. It had never been suggested, and if it had I clearly wasn’t listening.

This day would mark the day God began to do some heavy work on my heart that continues still. That day in the hospital with grandma made a small crack in the tarnished mirror that until then, had only reflected my “right” image.

God filled my years thereafter with beautifully varied women who taught me to respect and listen to those whose worship and adoration looked different, the subtle suggestion that I might find something I was missing in the listening. Slowly I awakened to the enormity of the Trinity.

Today, I’m gratefully sinking into a time of focus, of fasting and of prayer. Although not taught to, I recognize my need to join those ancient practices of traditions, recitations and rhythms. I’m becoming more fully aware how very wise and beautiful it is to be joined in unity with other believers, returning to God through the reading of the same text, during the same season, teaching me the power of repentance and forgiveness and rightness with God first, then with those God has placed with me on this earth. And it seems completely appropriate in this time of national division and confusion that those who call Christ savior and friend would remember him together.

So even if you don’t understand it all, you can start with something. You can start with a prayer to know God in a way you don’t right now. To notice someone that needs a little help and give it without expectation. To forgive and then to forget. To live simply for forty days and be surprised at how much lighter you are, focused on Christ with clearer thoughts, attention, and devotion to the only one who deserves it. Your submission to the ways of Christ will come a little easier. And while you will may find yourself in a similar place of forgetfulness a year from now, you will also remember the sweetness of communion with your Lord, his teachings and their familiarity, his washing of dusty feet, of breaking his body, pouring out his blood, for even this very day.

In this season of returning to God, let us remember him, together, one body, one spirit. Let us learn from each other, remembering Christ’s sacrifice for us all. Let us worship him in these days, undistracted and simple.

Although I’m not Catholic, I am observing Ash Wednesday as a starting place and the forty-plus days that follow. If you want to know more about how you can observe these days more fully, I’ve listed a few resources below.

For an additional article on why Christians should observe Lent:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/how-lent-can-make-a-difference-in-your-relationship-with-god/

For a guide on the observance of the Stations of the Cross:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/the-stations-of-the-cross-a-devotional-guide-for-lent-and-holy-week/

To experience a silent retreat during Holy Week with a printed guide to help you:

www.sustainablefaithindy.com/

Posted by Janna Lynas with 0 Comments

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